Wounded AZ congresswoman’s brother was ISU kicker

An Arizona congresswoman was shot in the head today as she held a town hall meeting in Tucson.  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has a link to Iowa.  Her brother, Alex Giffords, was Iowa State’s kicker from 1979-1982.

Initial reports indicate five people were killed.  A federal judge and a nine-year-old girl are among the dead.  The congresswoman is among perhaps as many as 10 other shooting victims.  Doctors say they’re optimistic about her chances for recovery.   Congresswoman Giffords was among the members of congress who read the U.S. Constitution aloud on the House floor this past week.  She read the First Amendment.

Congressman Braley Statement on Shooting in Arizona

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement on the shooting in Tucson, Arizona:

 “While we still don’t have all the details, Carolyn and I are praying for Gabby. Our thoughts go out to her husband Mark, her family, her staff and all who know and love her. And I add my deepest condolences to the families of the other victims of this morning’s tragic, senseless shooting.

I also should note that Gabby’s brother, Alex Giffords, was a placekicker for the Iowa State football team. She gave me a print of Beardshear Hall at Iowa State that I have in my office, which she got from her brother.”


WASHINGTON, DC – Iowa Congressman Tom Latham released the following statement today following an attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona:

“Kathy and I are keeping Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, her family and the other victims of today’s senseless tragedy in our hearts and prayers.  I know Congresswoman Giffords to be a dedicated servant to her constituents and the cause of democracy in the United States.

“No rational person could ever think that a political disagreement in this great nation should be solved with bullets, and I’m horrified by today’s events.”

Harkin Statement on Arizona Shootings

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after learning that 18 people had been shot and six died at a public event in Arizona.  U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) remains in critical condition and U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll is among those who were killed.

“When public servants and innocent civilians are struck down at a public event, a shudder goes through the hearts of all Americans.  This news is nothing short of a tragedy.  My thoughts are with Congresswoman Giffords and all of the families affected by this terrible turn of events.”

King Statement on the Shooting of United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords
Washington D.C.- Congressman Steve King (R-IA) released the following statement after United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot during a public event in Tuscon, Arizona today.
“My prayers continue to be for Gabrielle Giffords, her family, her staff, and all those that are in agony today,” said King. “We serve together and she is outgoing, personable and widely respected. It is inconceivable that anyone could harbor a vile, vindictive or malicious attitude towards her. I will continue to pray for her swift recovery and for the recovery of all those injured in this tragedy.”

Congressman Loebsack Issues the Following Statement on Shooting Involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after news that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot at an event in Tucson, Arizona:

“I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of Representative Giffords, her staff members and others involved in this tragedy. I have the distinct privilege of working with Congresswoman Giffords as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She is a great colleague and a fine public servant. It is unspeakable that such a tragedy occurred while she was meeting with her constituents, whom she serves with distinction and honor. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family, and the families of those affected by this senseless act of violence.”

Harkin on Burton as potential WH spokesman

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today commented on the prospect of Bill Burton, one of Harkin’s former press aides, becoming the White House spokesman

“If they’re smart they’ll hire him because he’s very good.  He was a great press secretary for me and then did some work, as you know, for,” Harkin began, then searched his memory bank for the name of Missouri Congressman and 2004 presidetial candidate for whome Burton worked, “…Dick Gephardt and then (Burton) went to work for the Obama Administration, so I’ve known Bill for years and he’s conscientious. He’s good and they’d be well-served if he takes over that position.”

Next WH press secretary may have Iowa ties

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, has announced he’ll be leaving in February.  As Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times reported:

…The leading potential replacements for press secretary include Jay Carney, a spokesman for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., along with Bill Burton and Josh Earnest, who work as deputies to Mr. Gibbs. Other candidates also could be considered, an administration official said.

Bill Burton, a Minnesotan, is a former press aide to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.  Burton was the communications director for Dick Gephardt’s 2004 Iowa Caucus campaign.  Burton was then hired by John Kerry’s 2004 general election campaign.  For the 2008 campaign cycle, Burton was among the first to set up shop at Camp Obama in Chicago. 

Josh Earnest also has Iowa ties.  Earnest, a Kansas City native, worked in the press shop of Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s 96 day presidential campaign.  He then worked on Obama’s campaign in Iowa for the general election. 

I’ve known Burton since his days on Harkin’s staff.  Burton is married to Laura Capps, a woman he met in Iowa in 2003 when he was working for Gephardt and she was working for Kerry’s Iowa campaign.  The two married in July of 2007.  Burton wore a light-colored suit to the ceremony, explaining it was the “audacity of taupe”.

UPDATE:  KCCI in Des Moines did a story about Burton & Earnest on their 10 o’clock news.  They asked me for comment, and I mentioned the “audacity of taupe” story. Brad Anderson, an Iowa-based political operative who has worked with Burton (and provided temporary housing to Burton), commented as well.  Anderson also worked with Earnest on Obama’s 2008 Iowa general election campaign, so he knows both men.

Mayors, governors, senators — oh my!

This is a sort of Friday potpourri post, covering everything from the controversy swirling in Washington to the potential ’12ers who will be in Iowa soon. 

In case you missed it, short-time Governor Chet Culver and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie have issued statements in support of President Obama’s deal with the GOP on taxes.  (Cownie endorsed Obama before the ’08 Caucuses.) The chair of the Iowa Democratic Party took a slightly different slant than her two Democratic counterparts.  And Congressman Bruce Braley is the only one of Iowa’s three Democratic congressmen to issue a written statement on the subject. Braley hints he’s dismayed by the deal, but doesn’t come right out and say it. You can read all of those statements below.

Issued 12.9.10 @ 12:08 p.m.: Braley statement on tax cut negotiations

Washington, DC – Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement on the tax cut negotiations:

“As the tax cut package takes shape, I want to reiterate my support for a tax cut extension for every American family on incomes up to $250,000.  I continue to fight for an extension of unemployment benefits, especially during the holiday season.  I remain extremely concerned that extending Bush’s tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans will explode the deficit.” 

“I continue to fight to cut taxes for Iowa’s families and I am working to ensure our future generations are not saddled with extreme debt.  I look forward to reading the legislative language produced on the bill before making a final decision on these important issues.”

Issued 12.9.10 @ 3:05 p.m.: Mayor T.M Franklin Cownie’s Statement on President Obama’s Tax Cuts for Amerlca’s Middle Class

Des Moines Mayor Cownie issued the following statement in response to President obarna’s economic incentive package for America’s middle class families.

“I want to commend President Obama for his leadership in securing tax cuts for America’s middle class, extending unemployment benefits forthe nation’s jobless, and providing important tax incentives for small businesses to create jobs. Preventing tax rates for the middle class from rising on January 1 and the payroll tax reduction that will take effect next year will put hard earned dollars back into family budgets in Des Moines and all across thecountrv, While we know that the President did not want to extend these benefits to the nation’s wealth lest and therefore worsen the federal deficit, we also know that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. The nation and its middle class working families need relief now. President Obama has demonstrated his leadership by pulling together an economic package that the country desperately needs.”

Issued 12.9.10 @ 3:53 p.m.: Governor Culver: President Obama is Working to Help Middle Class

Governor also calls for package to include extension of ethanol tax credits

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Governor Chet Culver today said he supports President Obama’s efforts to extend unemployment insurance, tax cuts for working families and other tax incentives.

Culver, who is in Washington, D.C., as the chair of the National Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, is pushing to get an extension on ethanol tax credits. The Governor said he appreciates President Obama’s work.

“I am proud of the fact that the President is working for Iowa’s working families during these extraordinary times,” he said. “Without the extension, more than 8,000 Iowa families were going to lose their benefits during the holiday season.”

The Governor also is urging Congress to include in the final tax package the ethanol tax credits.

“This is critically important for creating new jobs in Iowa,” Culver said. “The ethanol industry is a growth industry that promises good-paying jobs for Iowans now and into the future.”

[Read more…]

Biden addresses impact of outside groups

Vice President Joe Biden was in Dubuque today, rallying with Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) who has been the target of campaign ads run by outside groups like the American Future Fund.  Here’s the key quote from the Radio Iowa story.

Biden told the crowd that if Braley loses, it sends the wrong message to conservative political organizations like the “American Future Fund” that have attacked Braley. 

“They will have made a point, and they will have made a point to other bright, young congressmen that if you screw around with us, we’ll come in with a couple million bucks at the end so that every other Democrat out there next time out will go, ‘Whoa, whoa, man.  I don’t know if I can handle that,’” Biden said.  Senator Tom Harkin, who was on stage with Biden, amplified the point, telling Biden: “You’ve got it.”

Grassley/Conlin Radio Debate

The two major party candidates for the U.S. Senate met this evening in WHO Radio’s studio in Des Moines for an hour-long debate.  What follows is a live blog of the event:

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley’s opening statement started with a declaration that he doesn’t “take voters for granted” and then he bypassed his biography and he talked about a few issues, emphasizing that he hears this most often from voters: “I’m scared.”

Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin’s opening statement started with her “personal story” including her childhood and her work as an attorney.  She talked about jobs, the deficit, veterans issues.  “The biggest issue for everyone is how do we get people back to work…Senator Grassley’s plans are simply more of the same that plunged our economy into this crisis, that punished the middle class and exploded the debt.”

When both were asked why they are running, Conlin said she “decided to run because I felt that Senator Grassley had lost touch with the people of Iowa.”  She cited first his vote to bail-out Wall Street and his comment about “pulling the plug on grandma.”  She called that comment “pure fear mongering and I felt like somebody should stand up for regular Iowans.” 

Grassley was given a chance to respond, and he began by saying Conlin “has done good thru the practice of law…to improve our society” and Grassley said he’s worked thru government as an elected official “to improve our society.”  Grassley mentioned several pieces of legislation and in two instances cited his work with the late Senator Ted Kennedy to illustrate he works “in a bipartisan way” in the senate.

“Congress is a place where you don’t solve every problem, but you can set an environment” for problem solving, according to Grassley.

At this point, Grassley made this declaration, which he soon abandoned: “I won’t answer the charges…because I’d like to keep this a very positive campaign.”

[Read more…]

Dueling tours over judicial retention election

The “Judge Bus”  is traveling around the state.  The organizers held a kick-off rally this morning in Des Moines on a street just west of the statehouse. About half an hour earlier another group, Fair Courts for US, held a rally on the west steps of the statehouse, around the Lincoln and Tad statue.  That group is calling their schedule of events around the state the Homegrown Justice Tour.

Read the Radio Iowa story, listen to the rallies and see photos here.

This morning the Homegrown Justice folks accused the Judge Bus people of calling on Iowans to vote all 74 judges off the bench.  During the half-hour-long news conference near the Judge Bus, Congressman Steve King said no one in that movement was making such a call, but the Iowa Independent reports  Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Policy Centersent out an email last week urging Iowans to vote against all judges on the ballot, not just the three Iowa Supreme Court justices.  Hurley was not among those who spoke at the Des Moines Judge Bus rally, but he spoke at its stop in Atlantic.  Hurley told the crowd the Supreme Court had “usurped” or “arrogated” power that “was not rightfully theirs.”

Senator Tom Harkin attended this morning’s Fair Courts for US rally and talked with reporters afterwards.  “Iowans just have to realize what a dangerous precipice we’re on with this endeavor to remove these judges,” Harkin said. His wife, Ruth, is among those who’ll be on the “Homegrown Justice” tour.

Congressman King was the master of ceremonies for this morning’s Judge Bus event, urging “no” votes on all three justices.  “Don’t let ’em try to tell you that somehow this upsets the system in such a way that we would have a scrambled Department of Justice,” King said. “They have scrambled it and you have a right to fire them.” 

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, a former judge, spoke at the Des Moines rally after King.  Gohmert told the crowd he read the Varnum v Brien ruling last night.  “Now, they could have stopped at 64, 65 — but they had to get to 69.”  The ruling is 69 pages long.

The weekend wrap-up

A bunch of newspapers have issued endorsements in the race for governor.  If you subscribe to an Iowa newspaper, turn to the editorial page and check for yourself.  Branstad got the endorsement of The Cedar Rapids Gazette last weekend, along with editorial page endorsements from The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, The Fort Dodge Messenger and The Sioux City Journal this weekend.  Culver got the endorsements of The Des Moines Register, The Ottumwa Courier and The Mason City Globe-Gazette.

Two legislative leaders were on Iowa Press this weekend.  Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) and House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) say they were surprised by Farm Bureau opposition to the land and water legacy amendment; they don’t think the judicial retention will have much “up ballot” impact and they both think quicker disclosure of campaign donations is a good idea and do-able. Neither would offer specific predictions on House/Senate make-up in January.  And neither, by the way, have ideas to share about how they’d organize a constitutional convention if voters decide to have one.

Democrats have been raising money online to air this attack ad against Senator Grassley.  Meanwhile, Grassley’s campaign ridiculed Grassley opponent Roxanne Conlin for her “meager” fundraising report.

Vice President Biden is scheduled to headline a rally in Dubuque on Friday for Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo).  Details just released Sunday afternoon:

[Read more…]

The 2010 Jefferson-Jackson Day program (Audio)

“We aren’t going back,” Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky just told the crowd as she concluded her opening remarks at 7:42 p.m.  There was a delay in the program’s launch this evening, due to a false alarm.  Party officials say 1400 tickets were sold for the 2010 Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.  There are tables set for a little less than 1200, however.

The night’s cash haul?  “We have broken $300,00o,” Dvorsky announced to the crowd.

What follows is a live blog of the evening.

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) was the first elected official to speak.  I don’t recognize the music they played as Braley makes his way on stage.  (Braley staffer emailed to say it was “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys.  Braley grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa.)  “In 2006, we gave them hope.  In 2008, we gave them change and in 2010 we’re going to give them hell.  We’re just going to speak truth to lies and speak truth to fear and they’re going to think it’s hell when they’re listening to it,” Braley said to open his remarks.

Braley next said the pundits who are predicting November 2 will be “doomsday for Democrats” are wrong.  “We are at our best when we are standing together, fighting for what we believe in…and that’s why Democrats are going to win all over this state on November 2.”

[Read more…]

Rendell in Des Moines

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is the keynote speaker for the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2010 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner.  Rendell spoke with me a few minutes ago before heading into a pre-banquet reception with high-dollar donors.

Pennsylvania Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is among a handful of Democrats who are running ads touting their support for health care reform.  I asked Rendell if other congressional Democrats across the country, including those in Iowa, should follow her lead.

Rendell: “It’s hard for me to offer advice without knowing the circumstances and the context of the electorate — the demographics — but I think if you look what’s happened from the health care bill in the past three or four months, there’s nothing but positives.  There have been six significant changes that have come on line already.

“…I would talk about those things if I was campaigning because everybody loves them. You know, the great paradox of the health care bill is that when you talk about the components, everybody likes them.”

Henderson: Is 2010 shaping up to be like 1994 or 1998?

Rendell: “It feels like ’94, but with a couple of big differences. Number one:  ’94 was mostly a sneak attack. We didn’t have as much media.  We didn’t have 24/7 cable.  We didn’t have the interest in politics that’s come from President Obama’s election.  In ’94, a lot of Democrats never knew it was coming and stayed home.

“Since June, all the media has talked about is the enthusiasm gap: ‘The Democrats are going to get hit hard this year because Republicans and Tea Partiers are going to come out. Democrats aren’t.’ Democrats have heard so much of that that they’ve become alert.  That’s number one.

“Number two: in ’94 the Gingrich folks — the Contract for America — came across as reasonable and Gingrich came across as a serious-minded guy.  Right now the Republicans are getting hurt badly by all of the crazies, all the wackos — the Christine O’Donnells, the Sharron Angles, the guy in the Nazi uniform, you know, the people who are saying, ‘Get rid of the 14th Amendment.’

“It’s got Democrats and some independents just shaking their heads.  The more of that that goes on: get rid of Social Security, end Medicare, make it criminal for someone to have an abortion even if they’re the victim of rape.  When people hear that, they start getting scared and they start thinking: ‘You know, Democrats might not be doing so great, but do I want to turn the reigns of the government to this group?’ And I think that’s helping, so that wasn’t there in ’94.

“So I think it’s ’94 with two very, very important differences and also I think the president’s done a good job the last two weeks in rallying the Democrats, in rallying the Obama voters and I would be disappointed if his work and the work of people like myself doesn’t pay off.”

Henderson: Senator Tom Harkin said this spring he was glad he wasn’t running this year.  Do you wish you were more fully in the game in 2010, as DNC chair?

Rendell: “I’d love to be chair.”

Henderson: Or running for governor?

Rendell: “I’d love to be running for reelection ’cause I’d love to make the case that targeted and appropriate and controlled government spending can and has made a huge difference in people’s lives.  The things we’ve spent money on in Pennsylvania, you can see the results…If you target spending right, government spending can be very effective.  What the taxpayers have to look out for is bad and wasteful government spending.  But does anybody want to not spend money on our roads, our bridges, our dams, our levees?  Do you think the folks in Cedar RApids would have liked to spend some money on their levees before 2008?  You bet they would have, so we’ve got to distinguish between good government spending and bad government spending.

“I’d love to have my name on the ballot and I’d love to be fighting that fight right now and part of me, although Tim Kaine’s done an excellent job, I wouldn’t mind being back at the DNC to fight that battle because we need spokesmen to fight that battle.”

Henderson: As someone who’s from Pennsylvania, what can you tell me about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  He was in Iowa a couple of weeks ago and said he wasn’t running for president.

Rendell: “He’s smart because he’s not ready and remember, he’s done some very good things.  The cuts were necessary and, you know, it’s important to make the cuts and also tell the citizens that they’re going to have to tighten their belts and everyone’s going to have to for a little while.  Making cuts is one thing.  Making cuts and having government continue progress in education and energy and things like that — that’s the tougher task.  It’s takes guts and courage, but it’s easy to make cuts.  The question is can you make those cuts and make government work more effectively with less money and that challenge really will play out over the next two or three years in New Jersey.  If Chris Christie’s going to be a legitimate presidential candidate, it will be 2016, not 2012.”